Back again with mixed news from the Youth Sector is our own Adam Digby, here to tell us how the Primavera have, despite an emotional derby loss, qualified for the end-of-season playoffs. Read on for all that and more from the Juventus Settore Giovanile.
Marco Baroni‘s team went into this week knowing that just seven more points would secure their place in the end of season Playoff, as well as a chance to win the league title for the first time since 2006. It would be no forgone conclusion however, given that the fixture list meant they would face Sassuolo, then an away trip to Siena right before a tough derby encounter with Torino, all in the space of 8 days.
Knowing the difficulties that lay ahead, the first encounter vs. Sassuolo was made much more straightforward thanks to a stellar performance from captain and forward Alberto Libertazzi. The oldest man in the squad did what he had to, scoring two goals and setting up a third against a side that held Baroni’s men to a 2-2 draw when they first met back in November. Robbed of his Italian U-19 Internationals (Stefano Padovan, Gianluca Rubin, Andrea Schiavone, Elio De Silvestro and Stefano Beltrame) the coach was forced to make a number of changes from the team’s second leg of the Coppa Italia final.
The new-look Juventus line-up wouldn’t halt the impressive recent form of the side however, and the Bianconeri took the lead after just 11 minutes thanks to some great interplay between Prince-Désir Gouano and Leonardo Spinazzola who combined to provide Alberto Libertazzi with the easiest of tap-ins. The Bianconeri dominated from then until half-time and even the break couldn’t dim their superiority as captain Libertazzi doubled the lead almost immediately after the re-start.
There were then echoes of the first game – which saw Juve throw away a two-goal lead and could consider themselves lucky not to lose – as Sassuolo played their way back into the match with a goal from Raffaele Conforto. While the senior players (including Laurenţiu Brănescu, who turned 18 years of age just the day before) stepped up to ensure another collapse did not ensue, it would fall upon one of the sides’ youngest players, Simone Emmanuello to put the Bianconeri out of sight. Francesco Margiotta would add a fourth but it was the 17 year-old Emmanuello’s well taken goal that restored the two goal cushion and earn the praise of Baroni, who told Tuttosport:
It is no surprise, this exactly what he can do. He’s a superb talent and can become a great midfielder. We are working hard with him, especially on his physical stature because he needs to be stronger.
11′, 47′ Libertazzi, 65′ Emmanuello, 73′ Margiotta
Untersee (72′ Carfora), Gouano, Magnússon, Belfasti
Spinazzola (72′ Corticchia), Emmanuello (70′ Chibsah), Gab. Appelt, Margiotta
(BENCH: Sluga, C.Garcia, Esposito, Simunac)
Just four days later, boosted by their returning Azzurrini starlets Juventus travelled to Tuscany to face Siena, a side coached by club legend Michele Mignani but languishing at the foot of Group A. A ruthless performance was reflected in the 3-1 final scoreline, a Bianconeri display much improved from the Sassuolo triumph (despite the lower number of goals). Much more assured, there were none of the nerves which crept into that match from the moment Ouasim Bouy tapped home following a save from Padovan’s sensational effort.
Home goalkeeper Richard Marcone (another Romanian shot-stopper) was also unlucky with the second, somehow clawing Schiavone’s deep free-kick from under his crossbar but powerless to prevent an even simpler goal for Elio De Silvestro, who slotted home from less than a yard out. Some poor defending allowed Robur striker Diego Vettraino to net a goal that would prove to be little more than a consolation, after Bouy combined with Leonardo Spinazzola – both players improving upon their great recent form – to create the third and final Juve goal.
Picking up the Dutchman’s simple ball, Spinazzola tore through on the left completely outwitting the Siena defence, and slammed home from the edge of the area. In great form recently and ‘Player of the Tournament’ at Viareggio back in February, the player tormented Siena all match: both he and fellow winger De Silvestro (with whom he constantly swapped flanks) were vital to Juve’s efforts, as Baroni’s team added three more essential points in the standings just ahead of their important Turin derby. Juve’s new 4-1-4-1 formation has added some attacking impetus to a team which has looked blunt in recent weeks, and it was good to see the coach persevere with it even after recovering the rest of his squad.
12′ Bouy, 36′ De Silvestro, 75′ Spinazzola
Carfora, Rubin, C.Garcia, Liviero
Spinazzola, Emanuello (66′ Chibsah), Bouy, De Silvestro (72′ Beltrame)
Padovan (56′ Libertazzi)
(BENCH: Sluga, Belfasti, Gouano, Beltrame, Ruggiero)
Who else could it be? After 13 straight victories, who but city rivals Torino could take on Juventus and deny them the opportunity to qualify for the Playoffs, with only three games remaining?
Gifting the Granata with unexpected help towards that end however, was the Juventus manager. Indeed, abandoning the 4-1-4-1 that had worked so well in the previous two games, the Derby marked a return of the ‘cautious’ side of Baroni, along with a tactical approach (seen both at Viareggio – where the team seemed to win in spite of rather than because of the manager’s input – and in the Coppa Italia loss to Roma) that was equally negative as it was disappointing .
Thus returned Juve’s tried and trusted 4-2-3-1, with many of the impressive performers from the two previous wins cast aside in favour of players who, despite their added experience, lack the quality of those they replaced. Nazareno Belfasti is nowhere near as competent a full-back as Matteo Liviero, Francesco Margiotta is the least-talented among the battery of wingers available and, while Yussif Chisbah has been superb all season, the added quality of Schiavone and Bouy is always going to be missed in central midfield.
Added to those moves was yet another change in central defence, as well as the preference for the older Libertazzi over the brilliant striking rate of Padovan. It is therefore hard to argue against the idea that Juve were handicapped even before kick-off, although credit must once again go to Gouano who did well to shackle the sheer physicality of Granata forward Abou Diop.
After the first half played out in deadlock, Baroni improved the side dramatically by bringing on both Bouy and Liviero immediately after the half-time break, but a blunder from Gianluca Rubin would allow Alessio Vita to put the visitors ahead. Things would get even worse shortly after the goal when Gabriel Appelt received a second yellow card for a poor tackle: in truth, that is where Juve’s hopes probably ended. The Bianconeri showed great desire to throw everything they had at their city cousins and even Chibsah’s departure due to injury – which left them with just nine players on the pitch as Baroni had used all three substitutes – didn’t dim their efforts.
Juventus thought they had equalised just minutes from full-time, when De Silvestro scored from a corner only to see the referee rule out the goal for a push on Toro goalkeeper Alfred Gomis. The decision incensed Baroni and the continued protests from the coach meant he followed Appelt into the changing room, getting sent off by the referee after going too far with his theatrical complaints.
Untersee, Gouano, Rubin, Belfasti (46′ Liviero)
Margiotta (46′ Bouy), Beltrame, De Silvestro
Libertazzi (74′ Padovan)
(BENCH: Sluga, Magnússon, Schiavone, Mattiello)
Juve’s loss was not to be in vain however. Fiorentina were held to a 1-1 draw with Sampdoria which, combined with the head-to-head advantage over Torino (the Bianconeri won the away game 3-1 back in October), means a playoff berth is already secured. A win in any of the remaining three games will guarantee Juventus the top spot in Group A.
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One positive to take from the Primavera’s disappointing result of the Derby was the appearance on the subs bench of Allievi star Federico Mattiello. The undisputed protagonist of the Al Kass Cup back in January, the 16 year-old attacking player will have a major role to play at this level next term when many players (including Libertazzi, Beltrame, De Silvestro and Spinazzola) are no longer eligible to play Primavera football.
In the meantime his Allievi teammates – as well as 12 of the younger Primavera players – went to compete in the 50th Annual Junior Football Tournament in Düsseldorf (Germany) under the guidance of their coach Fabrizio Del Rosso. The U-19 competition, which was held between the 5th and 9th of April, saw teams like PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham, and even the New York Cosmos take part. Juventus were in Group 4 along with Dynamo Moscow and Werder Bremen.
The report on how the young Bianconeri fared will be published in next week’s edition of ‘Juventus Primavera & Youth Sector’ Latest. Make sure you don’t miss it!
In bocca al lupo ragazzi!